How Long Should Your Content Be?
Why having too much content might be bad and how to avoid it
There are two main schools of thought when it comes to content creation. One focuses on the quantity of content, the idea of “the more the merrier”. While the other focuses on the quality, sweet and short, straight to the point, easy for people to consume.
First, I could not deny that there is no definite answer to this long-time debate. There are a lot of different factors when it comes to crafting a piece of content. But generally speaking, I would argue that we should not write too much. At least not in the way where we are writing more for the sake of meeting the “benchmark”.
Before we continue, let me clarify one thing. This article is not about how one should never be writing a lengthy post. If you have to do it because of the context of your content, by all means, do what you need to do. This is, however, directed to those who are writing long posts just for the sake of writing more.
WHY SHOULDN’T YOU WRITE TOO MUCH CONTENT?
Don’t overwhelm your visitors
People are constantly absorbing information at any moment, sometimes they just want short and straightforward answers. A website with an immense amount of content could overwhelm visitors. They just don’t know what is important, what is not, what really matters.
Just imagine you had 5 minutes to choose a shampoo and wanted to compare between 2 specific brands. You search on Google, click onto a link and see a 10-minute reading. Will you stay and read or immediately close the tab?
Write for humans, not search engines
Longer-form content was traditionally used for marketers to stuff more keywords and phrases for SEO purposes. This is called “keyword stuffing”, by increasing the frequency and density of keywords to improve a website’s search ranking.
However, Google has also been evolving over the years focusing more on user experience. The good old days of “the more the better” might not work as much as you would have wanted.
Although search engines are likely to be the first ones “reading” your content, they are, however, not the ones who will be driving sales and improving your business. People go online searching for answers to their questions. If your article/post is stuffed with repetitive terms making it hard for an ordinary reader to read, very likely they will just close the tab.
What does this tell search engines? Their users (searchers) don’t find your content useful, this is a very bad signal for search engines. It doesn’t matter even if you have the best content and suggestion, people are just not reading it.
Affects your conversion
Web pages which people don’t find helpful will naturally have a lower conversion rate. People don’t want to read, you failed to convince them, they take no action, zero conversion made.
HOW TO AVOID WRITING TOO MUCH?
Write what is needed
What is a good copy? It is a copy that provides the necessary details, not a copy that provides everything. More importantly, can your audience easily read and digest it? What matters is the usefulness of the piece. If you can explain everything within 800 words, why write an additional 200 just to meet the “ideal word count”?
Write, review, and edit
What you see online, whether it’s a blog, a company website, or a news media site, all the copies are normally reviewed and edited at least once. We never, and should never ever be publishing our first draft.
In an ideal world, we would love to have another pair of eyes to review and edit the copy. But if you are on your own, write whatever you think is needed and let the copy sit for a while before going back to it. Some questions to ask yourself when reviewing. Your goal is to trim it down:
- Can you describe it in a sentence or two?
- Are there any jargons? Can you replace them with a more common language so you don’t need to give a sentence-long explanation?
- If you take away a specific piece of information, will it affect the overall understanding and interpretation of the message being sent?
Structure and visualize
Make use of headings, subheadings, lists, and bullet points. These provide structure to the copy and also declutter the long paragraphs. Some content might even work better using a list as compared to grouping it in a paragraph.
Some information might work better if you visualize it, it can save you a bunch of words from describing it. Providing interesting visuals can also increase audience engagement and give audiences breathing spaces between long texts.
For example in my “How to create a landing page” article, I chose to create a graphic to illustrate my point on “focus on what you can offer “ when crafting a marketing page. If I have to do it with text, I will probably end up with a long paragraph. (Not to mention it’s not easy to convert this illustration to text)
SO WHAT IS THE IDEAL LENGTH?
There are a lot of different suggestions as to how long your content should be. For instance, HubSpot suggests content ranging between 2100 and 2400 words is generally more ideal for SEO purposes. However, they do also mention that a third of their top 50 most-read posts were under 1500 words. What does this mean?
There is no golden rule here when it comes to “how long a content should be”. What’s more important is whether or not you could deliver the message clearly and concisely. A 1000 words content might work for a product guide, but not necessarily for a product review.
Remember, optimizing for user experience is equally as important as optimizing for search engines. If not, even more important.
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